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Zinc is a very important trace element for the body, playing a role in numerous biochemical processes. Enters the structure of over 100 enzymes, including SOD (superoxide dismutase), which prevents ageing, carbonic anhydrase, alcohol-dehydrogenase and pancreatic carboxypeptidases. It attracts the energy needed to stabilise metabolic reactions in metal-enzymes (enzymes that are responsible for preventing cellular oxidation, metabolic energy transfer, DNA production, oxygen fixation in red blood cells, etc.). These enzymes can only act in the presence of zinc, but their activity decreases in proportion to the zinc deficiency.
This metal helps the liver to make numerous proteins (activate RNA polymerase): hormone precursors, antibodies, blood transport proteins. It also plays a role in the synthesis of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). In the absence of zinc, cell division and differentiation stops in phase S and G2. Its involvement in maintaining the integrity of genetic patrimony is well known. What is called in molecular biology "zinc fingers" is actually a sequence of twenty amino acids which are arranged in space in the form of hand fingers and are linked to a zinc atom, which gives this protein the ability to interact with DNA.
It is also used in the body for the growth and development of reproductive organs (for this reason it is recommended to increase the zinc intake in the case of infertility). Zinc contributes to the maturation of sexual glands, allowing the balance and harmonization of hormonal cycles of the thyroid and pituitary glands with those of the sexual glands. It is necessary for sex hormones, pituitary hormones, thyroid, pancreas (regulates insulin secretion) and thymus.
When there is a zinc deficiency, signs similar to those of hypothyroidism may occur; the decrease in the transport rate of thyroid hormones creates a kind of peripheral hypothyroidism, manifested by fatigue, dry skin, hypersomnia, difficulty in concentrating, lack of intellectual acuity, hair loss. These symptoms can be alleviated by an increased intake of zinc.
Stimulating the immune system is another important effect of zinc. It is indispensable for the good functioning of the thymus, lymphocytes and white blood cells (in general). It also contributes to the body's defence against viral, bacterial or fungal infections, macrophage chemotaxis and lymphocyte action.
It has definite positive effects in the case of AIDS, especially as it is known that such disease often causes intestinal infections. In addition, AIDS causes a difficult absorption of zinc, as well as a decrease in its level in the body.
Fights acne. It limits the inflammation of the sebaceous glands, thus avoiding their transformation into infected and unsightly cysts.
Zinc is associated with vitamin A, favouring hepatic synthesis of the blood supply of this vitamin. A deficiency of zinc causes less use of vitamin A; in this case symptoms that are almost identical to vitamin A deficiency appear. It is associated with vitamin B6 and plays a role in maintaining a normal vitamin concentration in the blood.
Other important actions of zinc:
- helps calcium fixing and competes with copper;
- occurs in the acid-base balance of blood;
- supports the functions of the liver and protects it from toxins;
- behaves as an intracellular calcium antagonist and thus inhibits the release of serotonin and histamine as well as platelet aggregation;
- anti diabetic features. It has a hypoglycaemic effect because it stimulates insulin production.
- regulates the metabolism of proteins and phosphorus;
- facilitates assimilation of carbohydrates and proteins into the digestive tract;
- occurs in the synthesis of amino acids, cerebrosides and lecithin;
- stimulates muscle contraction;
- stimulate growth;
- stimulates the nervous system; it is antidepressant and balances the vegetative nervous system;
- anti-inflammatory, antisenescent, antiseptic, astringent, hypocolesterolemic, tonic.
Zinc deficiency causes:
- skin disorders (hyperkeratosis, eczema, irritation), thyroid disorders, anorexia, anaemia;
- apathy, gonads atrophy, inhibits folic acid assimilation, hair loss;
- difficult wound healing, conjunctivitis, prolonged convalescence, nail discolouration;
- diminishing the taste and olfactory sensation, growth retardation, retardation of sexual maturation;
- dwarfism (in children), fatigue, white spots on the nails and on the skin, striped nailed;
- predisposition to mycotic and viral infections, decreased immunity, weight loss
- decrease in skin trophicity, decrease in glucose tolerance, male sterility.
Zinc losses may occur in case of renal, cirrhosis, sweating and drug use (penicillin, corticosteroids). Deficiencies can occur more frequently in unnatural food intake, in alcoholics, anorexics, contraceptive use, excess sugar, stress, or certain intestinal disorders.